Home | Find Shipmates | Join the Crew | Update Your Records | Boat Sites | Links
Sea Stories | Humor | Food | Tributes | BBS | Quotes | Poetry | Reunions | History

Captain George William Folta USN Retired

Seattle Times Obituary:

Captain George William FOLTA, Jr., U.S.N. (Ret.) Captain George William Folta, Jr., U.S.N. (Ret.) passed away on December 26,, 2003 on the island of Bermuda after a long and wonderful life. He was 84. Captain Folta was born in Juneau, Alaska on February 4, 1919 to Judge George William Folta Sr. and Marion Sutton. Captain Folta graduated from Juneau High School in 1936. He then spent a year working in the mines in Alaska before attending the University of Washington. After one year at the UW, he accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

He graduated with the Class of 1942 on December 19, 1941. He was immediately assigned to USS AYLWIN (DD355) which was part of two critical sea battles in the Pacific; the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. In 1943 Captain George Folta was sent to submarine school in New London, Connecticut. He was then assigned to the USS BLUEGILL (SS242) which set out to patrol the Southwest Pacific. Captain Folta successfully made all six war patrols with the BLUEGILL. At the end of World War II, Captain Folta attended U.S. Naval Post Graduate School, before becoming the Executive Officer of USS MEDREGAL (SS480).

 His next duty at sea was as chief engineer of the USS ANTIETAM (CVA36). The ANTIETAM was the first aircraft carrier to have a "canted", or angled deck in the world. Following his duty aboard the Antietam, Captain Folta served as Head of the Bureau of Ships Program in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations . In 1958 he became operations officer and later, executive officer of the USS BOSTON (CAG 1), the first guided missile ship in the world. In 1960 he was given command of the USS JOHN HOOD (DD 655). After another tour of duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, he served as Commander of the New London Test and Evaluation Detachment. In 1965 Captain Folta took command of the USS MONTICELLO (LSD35) and took part in the Vietnam War, transporting Marines and weaponry.

He finished his career with Navy at Ship Building and Conversion in Washington D.C. During this time he obtained a Masters Degree in Financial Management from George Washington University. He then retired from the Navy in 1969.

After his Navy career, Captain Folta, worked for Raytheon Sub-Signal and then for Equitable Life Insurance. In 1972 he and his family moved to Seattle where he worked for the State of Washington in Building and Construction-Safety Inspection Division. In 1982 he was appointed Chief Inspector for Boiler and Pressure Systems for Washington State. In 1985 he retired. After a short retirement he went back to work for the City of Seattle as a pressure system safety inspector. He happily worked there until age 80 when he formally retired.

In his retirement Captain Folta wrote many stories, and was published several times. He leaves behind his wife of 38 years, Arline Berrigan Folta, his son, George William Folta III and wife Jodi, his son Peter Berrigan Folta and wife Lori, and his daughter Jane Garney, as well as three grandchildren; brother Richard Folta, Saipan and sister Claire Wipperman, Anchorage, Alaska.

He will always be remembered as a kind gentleman and loving companion to his wife, as a loving and caring father to his children, and as a well respected and well liked man to his friends and colleagues. A private, family service will be held this month and then Captain Folta will be buried at sea with full military honors.


It is with great personal sadness that I announce the passing of my good friend George Folta Captain, USN Retired. George served as an officer aboard the USS Bluegill SS-242 for all her war patrols. George retired as a full Captain after having served a long career spanning WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. Like most of our distinguished WWII veterans, he served quietly and proudly and since has never done anything to draw attention to himself.

His nickname on the boat was "Igloo" having grown up in Alaska - a name his former skipper, Eric Barr continues to use to this day. George told me about the time not long ago when he and Captain Barr met in Texas at the Cavalla to be filmed and interviewed for the History Channel's 4-part Silent Service series (they both appear in "The Captains"). Sometime during that trip they found themselves overlooking a waterway watching a medium sized vessel stem toward them and Captain Barr nudged George and asked, "Igloo, what do you make for the angle on the bow?" For a moment, George had goosebumps.

I remember the first time I saw George, he was addressing the annual meeting of boiler inspectors in the state of Washington (he was the state's Chief Inspector). I was a rookie inspector watching him approach the podium and as he adjusted the mike, it fell from it's cradle but not far enough not to pick up his clear utterance of "SHIT!" I remember thinking, "what is this guy... a boat sailor?" and it would be years later before I would find that that was the case.

Time went by and I had become the Chief Inspector in Seattle and I was hiring. Who walks through the door but George looking for a job to fill in his "idle time." Like all the candidates, George endured the mundane/predicable oral interview questions and when I asked the last one, "What can you tell us that will convince us that you are the best man for the job?", George, in his trademark deadpan said, "Well, I'm not so sure I *AM* the best man for the job!" After I stopped laughing, he was hired.

In our boiler inspection unit, we had a coffee pot and we all chipped in and took turns making the black and bitter. Without fail, whenever it was George's week to "have the duty," I reminded him that he - a full Captain - was making coffee for an enlisted man (me). His response to me was usually digitally delivered :-)

Another "work adventure" we shared was the result of a severe snowstorm in the early 90's.  We waited hours together at the bus stop until after 8pm and not a single bus came.  We trudged back up the hill toward our building and stopped in at a nice restaurant that was still open and were the last two served that evening.  We spent that night on the office floor and I don't think my back has ever been the same.

As a kid, I was always interested in ham radio. Growing up in Detroit, I spent most of my time working on cars and never found the time to get off the dime on getting my ham license. Once George came to work with me, he gave me the bug again (he had been licensed for about 50 years by then and had, as always, great stories to tell). Well, I got my license soon thereafter and George and I communicated many times both by CW (Morse) and voice. In my basement I have a One KW amplifier and a beam antenna that George generously sent my way several years ago. As boat sailors, we distinguish our departed shipmates with the status of being on Eternal Patrol. In the ham world, the term Silent Key is used. George has more than earned both.

George has written a few stories about his time aboard the Bluegill, several have been published in magazines such as Sea Classics. Just recently, I added a story of his on the BBS (just before Christmas) called "How Cutie Saved Our Christmas Eve" - a story that took place on the Bluegill in a very dangerous place.

He was both a skilled writer and speaker often resulting in an involuntary smile on the listener's face in admiration of his talent. Most of all, he was generous of himself - kind to all and loved by those that knew him. A tall man, with presence and rugged square jaw that often surrendered to an unprovoked smile and one who left you wishing there was time for just one more story.

I will miss him always. Goodbye my friend... Sailor, Rest Your Oar!

-- Don Gentry

I was reading your story about Igloo and thought I would mention some things about him. I was on the Bluegill from beginning to end with him and liked him very much. I was EM2/C. That story about Cutie was a "little" exaggerated. I asked him where he got all that stuff because he put 2 or 3 patrols into that story and he said "I had to make it really interesting."

On our 1st patrol I was a lookout and George had a habit of yelling into the talkback on the bridge and one time I was right above him when he yelled in the talkback and I thought he said "clear the bridge" and I did what I was taught, I dropped down and landed right on his back. He said "you just wait." A few dives later I happened to be the last one down to the control room and he rode my shoulders right to the deck.

In New London he and another officer, Kenneth Beckman, were real good buddies and they usually went on liberty together. One time I was on liberty illegally in New York and happened to see them on the subway and were they drunk. I hoped they wouldn't see me and when we got to Times Square they were both yelling "Everybody off, this is the last stop."

It sure was good to have known him. We e-mailed each other quite often and I sure will miss him. I keep our boat roster and write the news letter.

-- J Read Gwyer

The year is 1943 and Lt. Folta and Ensign Story report to the Submarine School Officers Training Course. Following graduation we were assigned to the commissioning crew of USS Bluegill. The officer group were LCdr Eric Barr- CO, Lt Bud Cooper –XO, Lt Kenny Beckman-Engr, Lt Folta – Communications, Ltjg George Ploetz- Gunnery & Torpedo, Ens Hugh Story – Asst Engr & Commsy, Ens Donald Duncan - Asst Torpedo. Barr and Beckman had been awarded Silver Star Medals for outstanding performance aboard their previous boats. Your dad was always called Igloo a name that stuck to him from his midshipman days at the Academy and we had another George aboard. Your dad and I were the only officers not qualified in submarines. The three bachelor officers were Beckman, Folta and Story.

We worked our tails off mastering our departmental duties and learning the boat. Your dad and I spent many hours training on the attack teacher at the Submarine base. He operated the Torpedo Data Computer and I was plotting officer. Those were our battle stations throughout the war. We sunk 14 and damaged 3 ships and were rewarded with 400 depth charges being dropped on us.

When we graduated from Sub School the Navy turfed us out on our own. Your dad and I ended up in a boarding house on the main street in Groton within several blocks of Electric Boat Company where the boat was being outfitted.

Your dad’s closest friend aboard the boat was Kenny Beckman, a CalTech graduate, very sharp, after the war worked for the Atomic Engergy Commission. He kidded your dad about being a trade school boy (naval academy). The boat Kenny had come from had been severely damaged and it was probably his quick thinking that saved the day. At any rate he was back in USA and determined to live life to its fullest for he wasn’t sure what the future held. Your dad had been at sea on destroyers but certainly not under the stress that Beckman had, but enough to want to enjoy life before returning to sea. Their headquarters was the bar in the Mohican Hotel in New London. Week ends to New York or Boston. Your dad and I visited the Coconut Grove Night Club in Boston, it later burn down with large loss of life. Your dad was a man about town in New London with his Ford Convertible, which brings up another story. The lady who ran the boarding house was a comely Miss who wished to go to the west coast. As we were about to depart he said she could drive his car to California and park it in garage in San Francisco. When we returned to San Francisco 18 months later for overhaul he went to the garage to pick up his car and it looked just great, better that he had remembered. A call from the garage a week later, they had given him the wrong car. His rag top was in tatters and about the way he had remembered it.

When we left New London our first stop was Key West to operate as the fleet sound boat. The new boat that left New London just prior to us, destination Key West, was sunk by the Army Air Corps. This was the training base for Anti-Submarine Warfare ships and their target boats were old S-class 1920’s era that could not dive very deep. The Navy rotated one of the new boats from New London on their way to the Pacific for several weeks to give the sonar trainees experience with deeper depths at which the U boats were more likely to operate... We had come out of training in the North Atlantic, rough seas, cold and miserable and thought we had come to paradise. Kenny and Igloo outdid Hemingway. They wanted to go to Miami in the worst way but the Capt would not agree. I think they almost got put in hack – when they were in earshot of the Capt they had a mantra of MIAMI. He was not amused. Kenny and your dad bought a small stuffed alligator which they named Danny Mohican to remind them of their favorite bar. He was ensconced on the overhead of their stateroom. This was a time when our ally the Soviet Union was held in high esteem in the U.S.. Your dad was studying Russian and he drove us mad having the radio shack play his phono records of the Red Army Chorus.

Our next stop was Panama. We were there at Fiesta time. The Chief Nurse at Gorgas General Hospital was an old friend of the Barr Family and she arranged for dates for the bachelor officers for the annual Fiesta Party at the exclusive Panama Club. I recall we arrived at the Army Hospital in big black open touring cars to pick up our dates. Great party, tropical breezes, good orchestra. I am not sure how the evening progressed but coming back to the submarine base we had to cross the canal. Somewhere along the way Kenny had passed out and Igloo was carrying him. The boat dock had high reinforced concrete pilings. Someone called to Igloo, he turned and Kenny’s head hit the concrete column. A severe hangover was the result.

When we left Panama the signal tower sent us the following message “ Good Hunting, Good Luck and Get Back”

Our next stop was Milne Bay, New Guinea, we moored alongside the submarine tender USS Eurayle for minor voyage repairs before embarking on our first patrol. The several days we were there we were invited to lunch at an Australian Army Matilda Tank Unit up in the Mountains. Each of us had a fuzzy headed - loin clothed native as our server. The initial U.S. Army campaign into New Guinea was a disaster, casualties were extremely high, doubt was cast upon future landings. As a result several general hospitals were built in the jungle to prepare for future landings. The army had learned a great deal in their initial foray. The next landings were quite successful with only moderate casualties. The hospitals were under utilized. To the rescue of the Army nurses, the officers of the Bluegill. We invited them to dinner aboard the tender. Proper napery and polished silver, stateside beef, white jacketed stewards. Great time was had by all. Next day off to war.

It was good patrol, we sank 3 ships one of which was a Japanese Cruiser. When we arrived at New Farm Wharf in Brisbane, 3 star Adml T. C. Kincaid, Com 7th Fleet met us and pinned a Navy Cross on the Captain. That was the only Adml we saw during the war. There was a cocktail party at the “O” Club to honor us that night. Some kindly staff officer invited a group of attractive young ladies to be present. We all got spiffed up in our blues. We had two weeks R&R leave due. Kenny, your dad and I flew to Sydney in a Navy seaplane operated by PanAm. We landed at Rose Bay the RAN seaplane base . The Navy had a lovely bungalow for us in the residential neighborhood of Potts Point. The night life was great, Christies, Ramanos, the Roosevelt Club and the Australian Jockey Club at Randwick. We were very impressed with the beautiful stone buildings in Sydney, there must have been many stone masons in the convict colony.

Our second patrol was successful, we sank 4 ships and returned to the Submarine Base at Fremantle on the Indian Ocean. Big base, two American tenders and one British tender that serviced the Dutch and British boats that had retreated from Suribaya and Singapore. We were greeted with fresh milk, fruit and mail. There were three levels of rest camps, Commanding Officers, Officers and enlisted. We Bluegill officers always stayed at Apple Cross, an old country inn midway between Fremantle and Perth. It was high on a hill overlooking the Swan River- lovely lawn and trees. A party every night. The fine hotel in Perth was the Adelphi. Every afternoon there was tea time attended by the fair young damsels from the first families. Therein lays a great tale. The lobby of the Adelphi was marble with a series of potted palms around the periphery. Suddenly one of the palm trees started moving across the lobby with two officers in dress blues crawling behind it. They would stop, order UP PERISCOPE, pop their heads up, comment PRETTY GIRL bearing 070 DOWN PERISCOPE and proceed to push the palm. That was Kenny and Igloos introduction to tea time at the ADELPHI. One of our favorite spots was Bernies an American style hamburger stand which served until midnight. It finally closed it doors in 1995. We had an unusual eye opener for breakfast at Apple Cross, Moose Juice which was ice cream and rum. Our partys at night featured Turkey Wurkey , a large punch bowl, everyone contributed something, mixed with fruit juice and ice and of course there was 14% Emu Bitters Beer brewed in Perth.

There was one all hands event after each run – the Ship’s Party. We carried a slot machine aboard Bluegill which we had obtained from the New York Police Dept. It made money faster than we could spend it and that’s what paid for the party. We rented the finest club in town, and an orchestra. Odd laws in Australia, you were not permitted to bring or serve liquor in the club. Your date had to have a large enough purse to carry the liquor bottle. You could buy mixer. People were always bending over, refreshing their mixer under the table.

Some of things I’m describing sound really childish in today’s light but the medical – psychological people who handled us were really quite good. The majority of our crew were 18-20 year olds, the officers 22-27, the Captain 31. All were in good physical health – but after a war patrol - tired and psychologically exhausted having been under great strain. They needed to relax and unwind. We slept a lot and drank and played and at the end of two weeks were ready to go back to sea. Two weeks of this was not injurious to the young bodies.

Our third patrol was our best- sunk 5 ships and damaged 1, a long patrol 73 days – 116 depth charges. Back to Fremantle to paradise. The first break in our team – Kenny Beckman was transferred to another boat as XO. A loss to the boat for he was a tower of strength but especially to Igloo, they were the best of friends.

Fourth run Zippo – no targets sighted – a frustrating run. Bud Cooper our XO who had nurtured us into the successful team we were was transferred to move on to his own submarine command. There was a special relationship with your dad. As a senior classmen he had been you dad’s mentor when he was an underclassmen. It was Bud who arranged his assignment to Bluegill.

Fifth run sank one ship damaged a destroyer – 115 depth charges. No return to paradise we were dispatched to Subic Bay in the Philippines. They were building a rest camp for us there, and had moved our tender up from Australia. They were still building the camp, Quonset huts, duck boards and mud. Our adventure here was a trip to Manila. The Capt had borrowed Adml Fife’s command car for our trip. I was the designated driver. The road was the infamous zig-zag pass. The road was graded with loose gravel and there were still pockets of Japanese in the area. We were rounding a hairpin turn when coming the opposite direction was a tank retriever. His trailer’s rear wheels caught our front left wheel and tore our front wheels off. He just keep going. Our vehicle slide over to the edge the engine partially overhanging the cliff and below was a destroyed Japanese tank. Fortunately any army truck stopped in several minutes and asked if they could help. They were from a vehicle repair unit as luck would have it. They took us to their base in the next town. The CO said he would retrieve our vehicle and rebuild it and gave us a replacement vehicle to continue our journey. They welcomed us to stay with them that night and a party followed as we had whiskey which was a rare treat for them. They asked as before we turned in if we would like to go on a jap hunt the next morning. It is to be appreciated that after the main battle force goes through it is up to the service groups to root out the remaining enemy troops. With the dutch courage that whisky gives one, your dad and I accepted the offer. Bright and early and suffering from the previous evenings revelry they issued us rifles and bandoliers of ammunition. We rode on top of an armoured car until we got to the designated area and dismounted.

We were to cross this rice paddy as part of a squad towards a bamboo thicket. The armored car fired phosphorous shells into the thicket and we started across the paddy, it was hot and humid and we couldn’t see into the thicket but they certainly could see us. I developed a great respect for the GI’s in the patrol, wished I could get back to our air conditioned submarine. The good Lord was kind to us- there were no japs in the thicket. Manila was a mess and we returned the command car in perfect shape.

On our sixth and last run your dad was our John Wayne. We captured Pratas Island a former Japanese Weather Station in the South China Sea. We were carrying 2 Australian Zed Force Commandos with us. We had reconnoitered the island and saw no sign of life. The decision was made to send the commandos over at night to check further. They paddled their kayak ashore and found no evidence of people. The decision was made to send a naval boarding party ashore under the Command of Lt. George Folta, the ships gunnery officer. Igloo with his swarthy band of 4 paddled ashore to join the commandos, blow up the fuel tank and radio tower. The Capt sent a message to Pearl asking that an invasion medal be struck and requested an air drop of baseball gear and beer. This message was not received kindly.

We were headed back to the States for a major overhaul and were to stop in Pearl for fuel and several days leave. The Capt wanted us to enter pearl in whites. No submarine ever wore whites returning from a war patrol, the staff in Pearl the high mucky mucks all wore khakis. Whites it was though - but some of us had lost our white shoes. We always carried paint – we had to sandpaper black shoes and paint them white, the paint was slow drying enamel. I recall several of us standing at attention on deck in sticky shoes when the inspection party came aboard. Two nights at the Royal Hawaiian and on to Hunter Points to unload torpedoes then to Bethlehem Steel Submarine Repair Basin at 16th & 3rd, just 5 minutes from the Mark Hopkins. We lived aboard a Navy berthing barge which provided very comfortable quarters. I recall we took a trip to Los Angeles to visit his relations, I believe his uncle was the minister of one of the large congregations .

We parted company at Mare Island – he had been selected to attend a post graduate course at the Naval Academy – this would have been in early 1946.

I will miss your dad, he was a great friend and shipmate. We had wonderful times together, fun and adventure. He was an honorable man with a great sense of fairness. He was highly respected by the crew.

-- Hugh G. Story
    Commander USNR-Ret
    17 January 2004


(circa 1990)

[date of this notice: 1/10/2004]